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Transatlantic air travel cheaper than UK rail travel

A UK railway union claimed yesterday that it may be cheaper to travel to the US by plane than it is to catch a train from London to Manchester. RMT union boss Bob Crow said that passengers are being ‘squeezed’ as UK rail travel costs have risen 31 per cent above inflation over the past nine years. UK rail fares are now the highest in Europe.

The average cost of a walk on ticket has risen by 23.1 per cent with long distance tickets going up by 31.5 per cent in real terms.

If you had chosen to go and buy a return ticket to Manchester from London after 3pm yesterday it would have cost you £308. Somewhat unbelievably you could have picked up a return flight to New York for just £298 on Skyscanner at the same time.

In their defence, the rail companies said the statistic was slightly disingenuous as this involved buying flights in advance. If you bought the ticket on the day, it could have cost as much as five times as much.

However, the fact remains that rail prices are incredibly high and are going up steadily, whereas flight costs are coming down. Although news today that Ryanair has seen profits slashed due to increasing fuel costs might mean that some cheap flights will be going up in price too. However, with competition remaining high among budget airlines, costs hopefully won’t go up too much.

Part of the trouble with rail fares is that the choice is limited to only one or two operators who essentially have a monopoly. It led Bob Crow to call their prices ‘blatant racketeering’. So, if you’re thinking about your holiday this year, it might just be cheaper to go somewhere exotic than to catch a train in the UK. Why not book some travel insurance and head off? It might be saving you money.

Date Created: 30 July 2013

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